On Saturday, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), along with his five other GOP colleagues from the super-committee, wrote a Washington Post op-ed on the debt-reduction process. Kyl’s point wasn’t subtle: he and other Republicans just can’t accept tax increases, at least for the foreseeable future.
Kyl called tax increases “the wrong medicine for our ailing economy,” and said the mere possibility of tax increases has “put a wet blanket over job creation and economic recovery.”
That was Saturday. Just 24 hours later, Kyl told a national television audience he’s comfortable with a payroll tax increase on all American workers on 2012.
The No. 2 Senate Republican, Jon Kyl, expressed concern on Sunday about President Obama’s proposal to continue a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax and questioned whether the tax cut had fostered the creation of jobs, as Democrats say.
Mr. Kyl’s comments offered a preview of a fight looming in the Senate, which plans to vote this week on the proposal to extend the payroll tax “holiday” enacted last December.
To justify his position, Kyl argued on Fox News, “The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation.”
As a factual matter, most economists believe the payroll tax break has helped, and I’d remind Kyl that job growth in 2011 is the strongest the U.S. economy has seen in five years. For that matter, I’m not sure when Kyl suddenly discovered an interest in efficacy anyway — the Bush tax agenda didn’t stimulate job creation, and Kyl nevertheless loves the policy and wants to make it permanent.
But even putting that aside, why would Kyl argue against tax increases on Saturday and for tax increases on Sunday? I suspect there are a couple of elements to this.
First, Democrats plan to pay for a payroll tax-cut extension with a slight increase on taxes paid by millionaires and billionaires. Since Kyl is only really concerned with protecting their wealth, he necessarily sees such a trade off as unacceptable.
Second, and on a related note, Kyl does not believe all taxes are created equal. Saturday’s op-ed railed against tax increases, but he was referencing Democratic efforts to ask more from the very wealthy. Sunday’s comments, meanwhile, were about tax breaks that benefit all American workers, most notably the middle class. Kyl’s focus is on the rich, and if taxes go up on working families, he hardly sees this as a problem to be avoided.
In the meantime, with the clock ticking, Senate Democrats are moving forward with its plan to extend the payroll tax cut, with a vote perhaps coming as early as this week. Republicans will filibuster the proposal, though Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told ABC yesterday that “probably some package” that includes a payroll extension “might very well pass.”